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The Cage

( Originally Published 1916 )

A GIRAFFE in the Paris Zoo has broken his head against the bars of his cage. What ailed the beast? For seventeen years he has had plenty of fodder and drink, an attendant in uniform and gold lace to wait on him, and the privilege of making the crowd gape. It was a career each of us is dying for. It would seem that Mr. Giraffe was hard to please.

When you go to a circus you see not only the caged brutes in the menagerie, but around the sawdust ring you find little wooden-fenced inclosures; in these sit the elect. Similar cages are at the prize fight, the roof garden, and the horse show. Nobody is it unless he has a fence around him.

Then there are the boxes at the theatre, the very worst places in the house from which to see what is going on upon the stage. But when you put a barrier around the poorest seats you can charge for them three times the price of good seats.

The only reason we want money is that we may buy a cage. As soon as a man gets rich he procures a house with a yard and a high iron fence around it. If a visitor enters the yard and gets by the bulldog he still has difficulty in breaking into the mansion. A butler meets him at the door to see if his clothes look fit, and a secretary meets him in the hall to make sure he is not after money.

When a woman acquires money her one desire also is to find a cage. She yearns for exclusiveness. Her altitude in the social scale is measured by the number of persons she will not speak to.

What we call getting up in the world amounts to getting properly caged. We want to travel in a private car—at least, in a private compartment. We want our meals at the hotel served in our own private dining room. We want to be shaved by our own private valet and not in the barber shop. Anything to be caged off from the people.

The instinct is in' us from the first. Turn a child loose in a garden. What birds and insects he cannot kill he captures and wants to cage.

When we say a woman loves birds we mean she has one or more poor little wild things hanging in cages around the house.

You may find here and there a squirrel in a cage; to give him exercise and to amuse him an infernal wheeled grill has been arranged in which the captive travels miles; he doubtless enjoys it —about as much as you would enjoy a treadmill; his mistress "loves animals."

Meanwhile there remain a few souls who really love freedom. They decline to "belong" to all sorts of things. They refuse to be bound by convention and the opinions of other people. They don't want to get away from the common people, but to know and love them better. They Iove flowers and have no desire to pick them. They love birds—in trees and hedgerows. They love wild beasts--in the woods, and have no de-sire to see them pacing up and down in cages. They want to be free, free, free. And they want all other people to be free.

Some of these are tramps. Some are the caged captives of convention sighing through the bars. Some are poets, like Whitman, crying:

"I utter my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world."

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